London has been host to a steady rise of alternative, meat free dining places. Given my zeal to build up a oeuvre in the first couple of months of this blog, we have been swept along with that craze, nom-ing through vegetables without ethical hesitations.
The time has come to claim a little omnivorousness back, sometimes you want to live off tofu and quinoa, and sometimes you feel a little blood thirsty. It’s time to sink some teeth into some meat and satisfy that inner caveman. Scouring my social media and utilising my google-fu like Batman looking over Gotham, it popped up on our twitter feed; a newly opened branch of Thunderbird Fried Chicken.
Villiers Street is sandwiched between the fag end of central-west end – Charing Cross, the entrance to the Strand, and the arty-lefty part of town, South Bank. With two or three public parks adjacent to a street of pop-ups, eateries and restaurants, I find myself here often. We’re not a minute away from our friend Herman ze German, three doors down. On this, an early June weekend and the hottest day of the year so far, it seems the perfect place to pick up some food from a eatery and hang out.
Thunderbird focus on making classic deep south U.S. inspired cooking. Their website tells the classic story of trying to carve a niche into an uncaring world, before selling their way into the highly competitive market of London by making a name for themselves with their wings and southern state cuisine.
“Without feeling a hint of retro, the layout has that classic American diner feel . . .”
Stepping in from the sweltering heat, this place thankfully has the air conditioner to the max. We’re instantly cooled and refreshed so we can focus on vanquishing our appetite. The music is an ambience of trendy modern music I’m probably too old to get.
Without a hint of feeling retro, the layout has that classic American diner feel. It’s the anti-Ed’s Diner. It’s all modern-decor sleekness surfaces and cold, deep-blue metal flooring. Amber coloured surfaces and lighting give it a warm glow with the fonts, and stylings of the menu make it quick and easy to get through. Just the way a quick and easy fast-food outlet should be.
And this place is small, with just a few window seats and two tables, it’s not a place to go for long sit ins. It’s fast food for people on the go. It’s geography; short walks from the National Gallery, Somerset House and the South Bank Centre and a whole other plethora of places to be means its a great little place to pick yourself up while going through the sites and highlights of London. When fast food was first becoming popular in post-WW2 U.S. it was lamented as the death of community in food, we luck out and get the only table, crowding around and making a meal of it to fly in the face of fast-food’s cultural history.
“Fried gold collected here”
Opened in April, this branch is scarcely two months old, so everything is freshly new; its clean and well maintained. A thunderbolt made out of one long, snaky line in lighting hangs on the wall – more a shrine than a logo and decoration. Service is fast, and we’re given those very modern buzzer gadgets to tell us when our food is done. The collection point has a light up sign like one of those ghastly beers signs your alcoholic uncle has in his garage saying: Fried Gold Collected Here.
Soon it’s wings galore, which comes in a spicy glaze of roasted red pepper cream, tamarind and coriander with a heat that builds and builds, from buffalo tang to rapid surges of spice that make us gasp and grasp for our milkshakes. We also have salted caramel chicken wings, with smoked salt, orange and chilli flakes topped with sesame seeds.
The Chipuffalo burger (£8.00) is fried to perfection, a light and crispy bread-coat with tender meat, fresh lettuce and sour pickles giving it the perfect taste and texture combo. The bun is a toasted, soft brioche that just about holds all that lovely innards together. Each bite is delicious.
As a side I have meltdown fries (£4.50): “melted jalapenos & miso cheese and charred pepper alioli.” – salted and Cajun spiced, topped with spring onion slices. They taste amazing, a unique and original take on the french fry. They go down well with a dipping sauce of chipotle which hot flavour builds slowly throughout the meal with each dunk of the chips.
” . . .vanilla milkshake, thicker than a rugby player’s thigh and just as perfect on a hot day. . .”
My other side is a pot of coleslaw – buttermilk, maple & caraway sauce; packed with springy and peppery spring onion and radishes and creamy lime sauce. It cools and compliments the spice of the sauce and fries, taste organic and fresh.
And what is more perfect to wash down a big meal of fried food than a cool, refreshing vanilla milkshake? Thicker than a rugby player’s thigh and just as perfect on a hot day. Sweet and soothing after the fried heat, the sugars coating the throat and quenching the spice.
A box (£8) is boneless chicken, awesome sauce and fries and as you can see from this picture, it comes loaded. Chives and spring onions as a topping to the dripping sauce. The food is spicy and salty, crisped and hot, all the good stuff you want from fried food.
It’s delicious. It makes you want more, we’re already coming here again. Before going to a theatre I’d usually frequent a Five Guys. A burger, large fries and shake are £18.50, excellent value for money and quick enough to eat before a show. Given its place so close to surrounding theatres, and being nearly the same price (£1 more – £19.50) I can see Thunderbird muscling on that quick and easy eat out territory. The quality of fast food dining has come along way since the monopoly of McDonalds and Burger King.
Where do you go for fried chicken? Whose your wing guy? Have you been to Thunderbird Fried Chicken? Agree? Disagree? Comment below and let us know!
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